But in more modern economies, a natural disaster actually appears to have the potential to improve the economy of a nation.
Bennett (2) points to the Sichuan, China earthquake that killed nearly 80,000 people in 2008. Official governmental records show that the economy actually grew at a faster than normal rate for the area affected by the earthquake. While economic statistics from the central government in China are notoriously inaccurate, there is little doubt that the economy did actually grow in the short and the long term during the months after the earthquake.
With long-term economic growth in mind, how should wealthy nations use this information when considering how to provide aid in the aftermath of a natural disaster? A study of the economics of recovery has revealed that there is a dark side to international aid. Klein (3) represents the more radical edge of this belief. She claims that free markets do not spread capitalism. Rather, NGO’s and governments taking advantage of societies shocked by the ravages of a natural disaster spread capitalism. Natural disasters are actually seen as growth opportunities by these organizations.
Perhaps a less cynical and more powerful article focuses on a recent study by Hideki and Skidmore (4) that attempts to quantify the long-term economic benefits of post-disaster relief. What these researchers found is that of 89 countries experiencing natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and hurricanes, the countries that had the most natural disasters actually had the greatest economic growth over several decades. The reason for this may lie in the fact that the improved economic conditions come from replacing outdated factories and infrastructure with newer, more efficient and productive infrastructure.
So, in a way, natural disasters can be a sort of economic boon if some of the aid money is directed and used with an eye to the economic future